Driving yesterday on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City—in the vicinity of Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College, and farther afield the University of the Philippines, the Philippine School of Business Administration, several private high schools and culinary schools—my son and I happened by a flower shop that had vehicles piled three-four deep in front of it. Business seemed to be going extremely well, so well in fact that flower arrangers had set up shop on the sidewalk outside.
We were planning to have lunch—a little mom-and-son date in the middle of the day—in an eatery on Katipunan, but even after we had circled twice around our chosen place, not an inch of available parking space had manifested.
Frustrated, we drove farther along, climbing the overpass until we settled on a tiny tea shop near White Plains, which, fortunately for our growling tummies, also served pasta and sandwiches.
I cursed myself for being so clueless about the occasion. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and the world had no place or time for an impromptu mother-son bonding. And even as we settled into that tiny tea room, my son spent the better part of our late lunch calling up a flower shop to make sure his bride received her surprise Valentine bouquet.
All the world loves a lover, indeed. And old lovers—old in the ways of the world and in familiarity, if not in age yet—can sometimes feel that love, or at least its tingling, thrilling, titillating guise, has passed them by.
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But even as I write this, the day ain’t over yet, and the old, familiar twinges of hope, expectant yearning, priming for a surprise, guarding against disappointment—all of these have come bubbling up again. As they do each time Valentine’s Day comes round.
It helps little, of course, that I am invariably disappointed. It isn’t as if I haven’t been warned. Early in our relationship, the hubby had proclaimed that he never had, never would, believe in the occasion. “Don’t expect me to do anything special for you on that day,” he told me. Even as I, pretending to be worldly and cynical and blasé about sentiment, nodded my assent, deep inside was a little voice simpering: “Oh, please, surprise me … surprise me.” He never did, never would, I guess. At least, not on Valentine’s Day.
Still, the world conspires against the cynical. For weeks—weeks!—newspaper supplements and lifestyle sections have bombarded us with stories on the latest in gifts our “Valentines” would love to receive; restaurants where we could celebrate our love appropriately; movies to stoke the romantic in us; and special offers for overnight stays in hotels and resorts. Maybe in reaction I lulled myself into amnesia, forgetting the occasion until our ill-timed search for a place to lunch.
What a way to be reminded! But even if only for the chance to reflect on the state of romance in the Metro—alive and well and robust in its commercial possibilities—I’m glad we had that brief Valentine’s Day tour. It warms the heart, even of this old lover.
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“Have a heart,” is the plea of children and child rights advocates to candidates in the coming elections, appealing to voters in turn to “think of the future of their children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews as they choose their candidates.”
“Just like any other citizen, we deserve better programs and policies from the government, but more often than not, our issues take a back seat in governance. Lamentably because we are not voters, politicians tend to ignore our issues,” says John Aries, 16, project team leader of the Children Talk to Children (C2C). But when it comes to issues that truly deserve the priority attention of politicians, says Aries, children’s issues should be on top of the list. “We are the most affected by poverty, hunger, disaster and conflict. We are the worst victims of poor governance.”
The C2C Project, a joint initiative of four child-led organizations in Metro Manila and Cavite, supports children in preparing and submitting their own report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and develops children’s skills in engaging the government and the general public in raising and addressing children’s issues. The C2C Project is being supported by Save the Children.
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High on the list of priority children’s issues deserving of government attention—and thus of all candidates seeking office in the May elections—is the issue of child sexual abuse.
Plan International, a humanitarian, child-centered development organization working in 69 countries, says it is “disappointed” that child sexual abuse still has a very high prevalence in the Philippines.
Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board show that the second most common cases handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development are sexually abused children (around 30 percent of all cases). The most common form of sexual abuse is rape, followed by incest and acts of lasciviousness. Rape victims are predominantly female (97.7 percent in 2009 and 90.5 percent in 2010). Incest cases made up some 33 percent of sexual abuse cases in 2009, and increased to 37.5 percent in 2010.
“Clearly, children’s rights are not recognized,” says Carin van der Hor, country director of Plan International in the Philippines. “In a study conducted by Plan last year, it was revealed that new forms of commercial sexual exploitation have emerged that are often difficult to track. Parents of very young children initiate them to child pornography, indicating that child protection and antichild pornography laws must have sufficient implementation budgets to enable law enforcers to update themselves with new technologies.”
Have a heart, indeed!